It's been an interesting career for Bankhead/Atlanta-based rapper T.I. He's currently weathering the brunt of charges brought against him for illegally owning three unregistered firearms, a part of his life he was not shy to mention while onstage at the Celebrity Theatre on Sunday night. He's not stupid and he knows his fans aren't, either -- he knows they follow his career through the good times ("My Love" with Justin Timberlake, his multiple Grammy Awards) and the bad (being arrested in the parking lot of a Walgreens hours before the BET Awards). Confidence, however, was never an issue for the self-proclaimed "Rubber Band Man" (a name he earned back in his drug dealing days). Once T.I. took to the stage 10 minutes after 10 p.m. last night, he instantly proved he would have everyone in attendance eating out of the palm of his hand.
Making it big in today's hip-hop scene takes the right balance of lyrical content, a fervent fan base, and a DJ who can provide you with some radio-friendly beats. T.I. epitomizes all three of these factors. Because of all the jubilant female fans' screaming their heads off, I swear it sounded as thought there were a boy band onstage any time T.I. launched into one of his many hits. He's a good-looking dude, though, and many of his fans are ladies -- something I am sure he has very little problem with. His natural progression through the night involved his slowly removing his shirts until he was left to throw his wifebeater tanktop out into the crowd. This was most likely in response to the numerous bras chucked at T.I. onstage.
T.I. enjoyed rocking the mic, as any self-respecting rapper would, but he often got up on his soapbox in between songs to address his current legal issues, the ladies in the crowd, and -- of course -- the haters. Now don't get me wrong, no one loves the haters. The haters exist to hate and to be jealous of those who are better off than they are. When T.I. felt it necessary to directly address the haters in attendance, I couldn't help but be a little confused. While there may have been a few in the Celebrity last night, I doubt there were many, considering the price of tickets. But hey, haters gotta hate, no matter what the cost may be. So let them know what's up, T.I., and get your money, man.
T.I.'s set progressed smoothly, only hitting a few bumps when he let labelmates Yung L.A. and Big Kuntry King come out to perform a song, thus adding 3 or 4 more guys to an already crowded stage. He did bring Amar'e Stoudemire onstage toward the end of his set, a move I found to be pretty cool given the dude just played a basketball game -- an overhyped, glorified exhibition in which everyone travels with the ball, but a basketball game, nonetheless. I was excited to hear T.I. play the song that made me aware he was going to be around for years to come, his early hit "Rubber Band Man." He played the song, much to my delight, but chose to give us the one-minute version, something that was confusing to me but probably made all the sense in the world to him. T.I. seemed comfortable and at home while cruising through his hits like "What You Know," "Live Your Life," "Swing Ya Rag," "Swagga Like Us" and his irresistible smash hit "Whatever You Like." At times, the set seemed to sound like one huge mass of hip-hop, with songs that tended to sound too similar. But I suppose that's what makes his music so enjoyable for his fans. They've come to expect a certain sound from T.I., and he no doubt provides them with all the energy and showmanship one man can possibly provide.
Last Night: T.I. at the Celebrity Theatre
Better Than: Supporting a certain singer who hits insanely beautiful Bahamian pop singers in the face.
Personal Bias: Yeah, mainstream hip-hop really isn't my bag, but I respect a professional who can put on a show, and T.I. is the epitome of a showman in today's hip-hop game.
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Random Detail: The DJs played Jamie Foxx's "Blame It" before T.I. came out on stage. I currently love this song, so I was very pleased (to the point of giddily laughing) they chose to play it.
Further Listening: "What You Know" at T.I.'s myspace. You've heard it a million times, but you know you still love it.
By The Way: T.I. gave a shoutout to La Face/Arista Records CEO L.A. Reid, a pretty cool move considering the man is a genius and is personally responsible for launching the careers of Usher, Toni Braxton, TLC, and OutKast, not to mention T.I. himself.